Dr. Miller from SHSU Counseling Center offers advice for suicide prevention
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 00:10
Suicide is a delicate subject to deal with, and maybe even an awkward one on college campuses considering the age demographic. But just a little more than a week following Suicide Awareness Month in September, it’s still worth noting that suicide trends at universities like Sam Houston State can be similar to those of small cities.
So what should SHSU students do to seek help for suicidal thoughts, or concern for a friend?
The Counseling Center’s response to a suicidal student varies from situation to situation, and is influenced by a large number of factors.
First, the students have to identify themselves as being suicidal. While this happens in a number of ways, most often the student goes directly to the Counseling Center, or shares their concerns with a resident advisor, who contacts UPD. Sometimes the student will call 911 or UPD directly, according to SHSU executive director of Counseling and Health Services Drew Miller, Ph.D.
Miller added that the vast majority of students who report suicidal thoughts to the Counseling Center would fall in a less serious category, and for those students who do have serious suicidal thoughts, there are few who articulate a clear plan with intent to act on it. For example, of all of the students who used the Counseling Center last year, approximately 34 percent indicated that they had suicidal thoughts, either active or passive, at some point in their lives. Of those, less than eight percent had every thought seriously about acting on those thoughts, and less than two percent had ever made an attempt.
This isn’t far off from what other universities report.
“I also think it’s important to note that when you think about a university as large as SHSU, you’re essentially talking about a population equivalent to a decently sized city,” Miller said. “As a result, you’re going to see the same types of issues and problems pop up, and mental health concerns are no exception.”
When students live off campus and call 911 due to suicidal feelings, it’s often the case that the Counseling Center never finds out about it because those calls are routed directly to the Huntsville Police Department.
If the individual identifies him or herself as a Sam student, then the officer in question might contact UPD, who will then contact the Counseling, but that depends entirely on the HPD officer in question. The same is true if something happens while the student is at home for the weekend or a break.
“We might never find out about it unless the student or a family member takes the time to notify us,” Miller said.
Depending on how notification is provided and the actual risk involved to the student, the student will either be brought to the Counseling Center or another safe location for further assessment or discussion, or will be taken direction to the emergency room, where one of the Counseling Center psychologists will go and meet with the student and advocate for him or her during the admission process.
Just beware, the Counseling Center and UPD, take any notification of suicidal student seriously.
“There have been instances where a student is not suicidal but claims to be in order to gain attention or influence a situation,” Miller said. “These students are always surprised and often embarrassed when they’re woken up by a UPD officer at 2 a.m. for a welfare check, or when they’re pulled out of class by me and the Dean of Students to check on them. We are serious about the safety of our students, and will do anything in our power to ensure their safety.”
On Sept. 18, a nonstudent male went to the top of the Sam Houston State parking garage and threatened to jump before UPD helped talk him down.
The man voluntarily received treatment at Huntsville Memorial Hospital.